The Help to Buy Scam…

Nora Connolly 

Image © IWM

The second part of the government’s mortgage scam, sorry scheme, has been launched. The Help To Buy Scheme aptly illustrates that where there`s a scheme there is usually a schemer. The first phase encouraged homeowners to purchase new builds, around 9,000 properties involved thus far. The second phase is more significant as it makes available £12bn in guarantees to lenders – enough, it believes, to support £130bn of mortgages with the buyer paying a deposit as low as 5%. Ministers have claimed the scheme could guarantee up to 190,000 mortgages a year over three years. The second stage of this proposal includes older properties but excludes the purchasing of a second home and prohibits the buying of property with a view to rent. Participation apparently involves credit checks with “stress testing” factoring in variables such as future adjustments in interest rates. The ultimate “stress test” is of course the loss of a borrower’s job, leading to possible repossession. This potential disaster is addressed up to a point; the government will cover a chunk of the lender`s losses, as 15% of the deposit is provided. Thus socialising the lenders loss and risk while providing no safeguards for the borrower, who face homelessness if they default on the loan. So, it seems where necessary, intervention is possible even when it usurps the great misnomer of our time, the free market (as long as the intervention is designed to protect capital – this great plan sounds familiar). The housing Minister questioned yesterday on the world at one, maladroitly side-stepped the issue of his new found zeal for intervention.   Read more of this post

The Left and Margaret Thatcher

Frederick Cowell

Image©Gingerblokey

Margaret Thatcher’s death has resulted in many a hagiography, some national reflection and an almighty attack of political amnesia. Her pursuit of an agenda of ideological radicalism which either, saved or savaged Britain (depending on your viewpoint) created an ‘ism’ but was not done in vacuum.

Margaret Thatcher had long nursed radical ideologies but contrary to the right wing narrative of ideological triumphalism in her ascendency to power, her first election victory in May 1979 was on a very pragmatic and cautious ideological platform. The Conservative manifesto was, as the historian Andy McSmith notes, only little more radical than their 1970 manifesto and Margaret Thatcher had agreed to follow the generous recommendations of the Clegg Commission on Public Sector pay which had been set up after the winter of discontent – hardly the stuff of union smashing Tory fantasies.  Ken Clarke reflected that the election focused on bread and butter issues such as prices, inflation and the state of the national finances – many of the same concerns had encouraged the electorate five years earlier to replace Edward Heath with Harold Wilson. Nigel Lawson remembered she was preoccupied with “not frightening the electorate” and in the late 1970s she went out of her way to distance herself in public from more radical policies on spending cuts and privatisation and in office was even prepared to give in to the miners, delaying pit closures. It was two years from her election until the first full monetarist budget in 1981 and many of the largest privatisations and assaults on the unions took place later. The ideological zealotary, which she had always had, emerged openly in 1981 as the infighting on the left meant that it was unlikely that there would be any meaningful opposition to the Thatcherite agenda.  Read more of this post

Thatcher and Thatcherism – by Eric J. Evans

LeftCentral Book Review 

© Image rahuldlucca`s photostream

This is a bantamweight text, which packs a super-heavyweight punch. And Evans, whose first edition was published fifteen-years ago, has revised his view; granting Mrs Thatcher more significance than he initially credited her with. Thatcherism is not considered a coherent ideology; Evans along with others believes it was (is) an amalgam of neo-liberalism and authoritarian conservatism. He charts Thatcher`s rise and fall, while placing her leadership within a political and historical framework (Peel and Disraeli). He includes a more contemporary analysis of Major`s administration, as John Major suffered from her back seat driving, as the Tories ripped themselves apart over Europe. Margaret Thatcher, who in 1986 signed the Single European Act, paradoxically became the standard bearer of European sceptics, illustrating what a funny world British politics is. As Evans points out the “Single European Act accelerated the process towards wider European integration, ultimately leading to the Maastricht Treaty in 1991 and the establishment of a single European currency in 1991”.

The New Labour project was not immune from Thatcherism and comparisons between Blair/Brown and Thatcher are made. Evans gives credence to a quote from the Spectator that “Margaret Thatcher begat Tony Blair”. Ireland is ignored by Evans and an interesting policy contrast between Blair and Thatcher was lost. Thatcher was viewed by many as a strident Unionist but she did sign the Anglo-Irish Agreement (1985) and without this later initiatives by Major and Blair would have been impossible.  Read more of this post

London Calling: From Peoples March 1981 to Workfare labour 2012

John Curran

Image © John Keogh

In the spring of 1981 the UK was in the early stages of a monetarist revolution linked to the economic philosophy of Milton Friedman. Keith Joseph the principal advocate of the `Chicago School’ was forced to abandon his ambition of leading the British Conservative Party after delivering a speech about cycles of depravation where the perceived feckless behaviour of the poor was held to be the key to understanding poverty. The leadership baton was handed to his feisty acolyte and former Conservative Education Minister, Margaret Thatcher, who gained fame in the 1970s, “as Maggie Thatcher Milk Snatcher”.

Mrs Thatcher became Prime Minister in May 1979. Her first words those of Saint Francis of Assisi, uttered as she entered Downing Street, sounded increasingly hollow as the inner cities went up in flames and a war ensued over the Falkland Islands invasion.  Her doctrine at home was the `Resolute Approach` and abroad she earned the new nickname of `Iron Lady.’

Mrs Thatcher faced early opposition from many quarters. She confronted her first enemy within, not the political left but elements of her own cabinet a faction of `One Nation Tories’ contemptuously described as `wets.’ These liberal Tories viewed her agenda as anathema, adhering as they did to an economic orthodoxy forged in the post war consensus. However, the Conservative victory in 1979 was viewed as a mandate to overturn the Keynesian settlement to restructure the UK economy and in doing so laying waste the industrial heartlands of Britain.

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